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Romance & Money

Eliminating Family Stress

Learn While You Teach Your Children About Money And Finances

Anne Marie in Phoenix, Arizona
"My husband and I have been married for only three months. We have three teenagers (two are mine, one is his) who complain constantly about our tight budget. To complicate the situation further, he's in the reserves and will be shipped overseas in three weeks. Our budget will tighten even more, and I will be left with three teens, anxiety over our finances, and fear. The only thing we all agree on is that we are very proud of him.
How can I teach the children about the financial dynamics of our new family in a way that will diffuse their resentment and teach them to be responsible with their own money now and in the future? I'm also concerned that if I don't find a way to bond a bit more with his sixteen-year old daughter while he's gone, it could put a strain on our romance when he returns.
I think there is a positive way to financial peace in our home I just don't know where to start. Please help!"


Dear Anne Marie, that's a great question, and I'm certain many couples can relate.

We all are proud of our service men and women and are especially grateful for the sacrifices they and their families are making. This time of difficult adjustments for every individual in your family can be a time full of growth.

That being said, I have few suggestions that all of you may be able to learn from, and which can help you deepen your new and established family ties.

Spring is the time of planting; with a few simple steps, you can plant the seeds of healthy financial stewardship in your children's minds. These seeds will grow and produce throughout their lives. Understanding a few financial principles will help to alleviate some of the arguing in your household as well. However, to my knowledge there is nothing in this world that can keep three teenagers in the same house from having that occasional spat.
One of the first things you should do is sit down and talk to each child, individually. Discover what it is they want, not just from you, but out of life in general. The answer can range from a new skateboard to a car.

By doing this you give each child one-on-one time during which you truly listen. You'll be amazed how much frustration this step can address. Teenagers complain frequently about how their parents don't listen to them, or how they feel invisible in the family. Listening is a good first step.

Help them map out their future by writing down their goals. Ask them if they have thought about how to achieve their goals. Even if a goal is buying $60-tickets for next month's concert, do they have a plan? Is there anything they can do to earn their own money instead of relying on you and your spouse? Could the three of them do a paper route and split the money each month? They would bond, make money, develop respect for their money (and yours), and alleviate some financial frustrations for the whole family. That's just one idea. There are many things a teen can do to earn an extra $20.00 a week. Once they start and see their savings grow, they won't need your coaching.

Learning how to manage money is a critical step in becoming a responsible adult. Sadly, very few seniors in high school have even an elementary grasp of the financial concepts involved in having a checking account. Planting these seeds is a great gift you give your teenagers and yourselves.

While your spouse is away, your teens can be redirecting their energies and developing a more responsible attitude towards money. This will help you bond with them and hopefully them with each other. Your husband will be thrilled (I'm sure) to hear of this family project while he's gone.

Teaching his daughter (and your children) how to become financially empowered, and keeping him abreast of all the progress, will go a long way in strengthening his commitment to a woman who is willing and able to keep the home fires burning. This is critical to a soldier. My father was in the Navy, and then in the US Air Force, I know of what I speak.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I say the way to a father's heart is by loving his child.

It is like the seed put in the soil - the more one sows, the greater the harvest.
Orison Swett Marden (1850 - 1924)

To plant the seeds of financial stewardship even deeper, check out some of the web sites that will help develop a greater understanding of the basic principles of finance. www.jumpstartcoalition.org links to all kinds of age-relevant information to teach children (K-12) about financial responsibility. The site describes many free materials.
Another organization that focuses on the financial literacy of today's youth is NEFE (National Endowment for Financial Education) at www.nefe.org. NEFE also has a teen resource bureau www.ntrbonline.org that I think is great for older teens with lots of questions.
One last web page I'd like to mention is http://www.ustreas.gov/kids/ click on the 'savings bonds' icon. This takes you to 'Savings Bonds for Kids'. No financial lesson is complete without learning to save.
 

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